Far too many people pursue auto accident claims without having a basic understanding of how auto accident cases work in South Carolina. In our years of representing victims of South Carolina auto accidents, we’ve learned that most people really aren’t aware of the importance of being able to prove negligence, how comparative negligence might apply to their claims, or what the statute of limitations is for their claim. Many of our clients also have questions about contingency fees, and whether or not their case has to go to court in order to be awarded compensation, or if it will go to court just because they hire an attorney.
There are a lot of people who are under the misguided impression that you only hire an attorney when you’re planning to go to court or that an attorney will take the majority of any settlement they recover. At The Jeffcoat Firm, we understand the importance of ensuring that our clients (and the public) are well informed about South Carolina auto accident claims before they attempt to pursue one.
We can accomplish this by covering some of the most common questions and basic information and by answering your more specific questions in a free consultation. If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, read on to learn more; then, contact us to schedule your free consultation to find out more about how the law applies to your own case.
How Can You Prove Negligence in a South Carolina Auto Accident?
In order to prove negligence in any personal injury claim (including auto accident injury claims), you have to prove certain elements of your case. For a someone to be negligent, they must first owe you a duty of care in the given situation. In an auto accident case, this is generally an easy thing to prove, because everyone who shares the road owes a duty of care to all of the people that they share it with. This includes other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.
The next thing is to prove that the duty of care was breached or violated. The duty of care that another motorist owes you is to drive safely and cautiously, while obeying the rules of the road. If a driver behaved in an unsafe, incautious, or unlawful manner – or if the driver failed to behave in a manner appropriate to the situation – and if you can prove this, then you can establish that the duty of care was violated.
Yet, this is not the last step in proving negligence. Even if a driver owed you a duty of care and breached that duty, they cannot be found to be negligent in your case unless their failure to uphold their duty of care is what actually caused the accident. Even then, you must still prove that this negligence caused your injuries and damages.
If you can prove all of these elements, then you should have little trouble recovering compensation for your injuries. At this point, it becomes a matter of proving what your injuries and damages are worth and obtaining the maximum compensation.
What Happens if You Are Partially At Fault for the Auto Accident?
If you are partially at fault for your auto accident, you may still be able to recover compensation with South Carolina’s comparative negligence system. As long as you are not more than 50% at fault, you are still allowed to recover compensation, up to a point. The best way to explain comparative negligence is to provide an example:
In this example, Joe is 60% at fault for an auto accident, and Jen is 40% at fault for the accident. This could be because Joe was following too close and rear ended Jen, but Jen was partially responsible because her brake lights weren’t working.
Jen’s damages are valued at $2,000. Because she doesn’t hold the majority of fault, she can recover compensation, but not the full amount. She can recover 60% of her damages from Joe’s auto insurance policy, because Joe was 60% responsible for her damages.
Thus, Jen ends up recovering $1,200 and is responsible for covering the remaining $800 of her damages, herself (perhaps with her own auto insurance policy). Joe, on the other hand, cannot recover any compensation at all from Jen’s auto insurance policy, because he was found to be more than 51% at fault for the accident.
What is the Statute of Limitations in Your Case?
In any personal injury claim, you are restricted to a given statute of limitations, during which time you are allowed to file a lawsuit. Once the statute of limitations runs out, you are no longer able to do so. For auto accident claims in South Carolina, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the incident and injuries. If it is a wrongful death claim, then the statute begins on the date of the person’s death, rather than the date of the incident.
How Can You Afford an Auto Accident Attorney?
The auto accident attorneys at The Jeffcoat Firm work on a contingency fee basis, so that we only get paid if we are able to successfully recover compensation for you. Many people think that hiring an attorney is not worthwhile because it costs so much money. Yet, the reality is that you will usually end up with far more compensation with an attorney, even after paying the contingency fee, than you would without one. The national average is a recovery of 3.5% more in compensation with an attorney than without an attorney.
Does Hiring an Attorney Mean That Your Case is Going to Court?
It is not necessary to go to court to recover compensation, and hiring an attorney does not mean that the case is going to end up in a courtroom. Some cases may require this, but the vast majority are settled without the necessity of a trial. When you hire an attorney, you are not doing so because you want your case to go to court, but because you want to recover the maximum compensation that is owed to you, and an attorney can help you to accomplish this.
In many cases, the insurance company will only take you seriously once you’ve obtained legal representation. Furthermore, it is in everyone’s best interest to settle the claim without going to court. This is because the court is expensive and time-consuming. The insurance company doesn’t want to go to court, and neither do you. This motivates both sides to be reasonable with their negotiations so that you can recover a fair amount of compensation.